Need-blind admission

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Need-blind admission is a term used in the United States denoting a college admission policy in which the admitting institution does not consider an applicant's financial situation when deciding admission. Generally, an increase in students admitted under a need-blind policy and needing financial aid requires the institution to back the policy with an ample endowment or source of funding. Being need-blind is a statutory requirement for institutions to participate in an anti-trust exemption granted by Congress which remains in effect until September 30, 2022.[1] An institution may be need-blind in any given year by policy (de jure) or by circumstances (de facto).

Most colleges and universities cannot afford to offer financial aid to all admitted students and many will admit all students on a need-blind basis but cannot offer them sufficient aid to meet need. Many schools who admit all U.S. citizens or resident aliens without regard to need do not extend this policy to international students or to transfer students. Therefore schools, especially private ones, which are need-blind and full-need for all applicants, including internationals, tend to be much more selective as they have relatively more applicants than other similar schools.

Need-blind admission does not necessarily mean a "full-need" financial aid policy—where the school agrees to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all its admitted students. Indeed, the two policies can be in tension because need-blind admissions and full-need financial aid together commit the school to spend an undetermined amount of money regardless of other budgetary constraints. Thus, some need-blind schools will admit students who will nonetheless not be able to attend because of deficient financial aid awards.

Institutions self-define their definition of meeting full demonstrated need. There is no U.S. standard that an institution must abide by to claim that they meet fully demonstrated need. Therefore, an applicant's financial aid package can vary significantly at various schools, even if all of these institutions claim to meet fully demonstrated need.

U.S. institutions that are need-blind and meet full demonstrated need for both U.S. and international students

There are currently only six U.S. higher learning institutions that are need-blind and meet full demonstrated need for all applicants, including international students.[2] These are:

U.S. institutions that are need-blind for U.S. applicants and meet full demonstrated need

A number of U.S. institutions of higher learning offer both need-blind admissions and meet full demonstrated need for students. However, these institutions are need-aware when it comes to international student admissions. The following schools fall under this category:

U.S. institutions that are not need-blind for U.S. applicants and meet full demonstrated need

Many reputable US institutions that once championed "need-blind" policies in the past have modified their policies due to rising tuition and financial aid costs, as well as less-than-ideal returns on endowments. This largely affects prestigious institutions with vulnerable resources that do not offer merit-based aid but base their financial aid entirely on need and promise to deliver 100% of financial need (composed mostly of grants). These stated institutions refer to themselves as "need-aware" or "need-sensitive," policies that somewhat contradict their call to admit and provide education for all qualified candidates regardless of economic status but allow them to fully fund the needs of all accepted students.[25]

For instance, at Macalester College, Mount Holyoke College and Smith College, at least 95% of students are admitted without their financial aid need being a factor (i.e., "need-blind"), but a slim percentage (1%–5%), generally students wait-listed or with borderline qualifications, are reviewed in modest consideration of the college's projected financial resources. All of these aforementioned colleges grant all acceptees full financial aid packages meeting 100% need.[26] At Wesleyan University, attempted shifts to a "need-aware" admission policy have resulted in protests by the school's student body.[27]

U.S. institutions that are need-blind for U.S. applicants and do not meet full demonstrated need

Some schools have a need-blind admissions policy, but do not guarantee to meet the full demonstrated financial need of the students they admit. The following schools fall under this category:

U.S. institutions that are need-sensitive and do not meet full demonstrated need

Still more schools are actively pursuing a need-blind and / or full-need admissions policy but have not yet had the resources to fully implement it.

The following schools fall under this category:

Non-U.S. institutions that are need-blind and full-need for all applicants

Boarding schools

By 2014, Phillips Academy is the only boarding high school that has a clearly stated need-blind admission policy and is committed to meet full demonstrated need of its admitted students. St. Andrew's School stopped the policy in 2013. Phillips Exeter Academy was "effectively need-blind" prior to the 2009 admission season but stopped the practice since due to the economic pressures. Roxbury Latin, a day school outside of Boston, is also need-blind.

See also


  1. Summary of S. 1482: Need-Based Educational Aid Act of 2015
  2. Schools Awarding International Financial Aid
  3. Amherst College Need-Blind Admission Policy to International Students
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  13. [1] Archived August 31, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
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  25. Seline, Anita M. (1996). "The shift away from need-blind: colleges have started their version of "wallet biopsies." - higher education institutions admit students on economic status criteria". Black Issues in Higher Education.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. The Miscellany News | Since 1866: Financial Aid at Vassar | Crunching the numbers
  27. "The 1992 Need-Blind Occupation: A Look Back with Ben Foss '95". Wesleying. Retrieved 15 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Javetski, Gillian (2009-04-02). "Tufts accepts 26 percent of pool, suspends need-blind admissions". The Tufts Daily. Retrieved 2009-04-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. [2]